22 Jul 2014

Post-war Optimas (1949-1961)

When I was working on my post about post-war Rheinmetalls, Using the data in Die Entwicklung der ehemaligen DDR-Schreibmaschinen-Produktion I also updated the Optima serial numbers on the Typewriter Database, which before had been quite lacking. Now they are complete for the entire portable line, and I added the numbers for the earlier standards as well. In this article I will be focusing only on the portable Optimas.

1949-1991 Optima timeline

click to enlarge

All of the pictures in this post have been found on the internet and come from the collections of myself, and other typospherians, as well as current and ended online auctions, and are presented purely as examples essential to this post. No infringement intended.

All typewriters with serial numbers indicated have been dated using the list at the bottom of the post.

This post will be edited when new information becomes available, especially with model examples. If you have an example with a serial number and photo, or anything else useful, please let me know!

The Olympia factory was located in the Soviet occupation zone at the end of WWII, but a new factory was set up in Wilhelmshaven, in the British zone. The Olympia name was used by both the eastern and western factories until the formation of East Germany when an international court ruling gave Wilhelmshaven the rights to the brand name. In Erfurt, Optima was used by VEB Optima Büromaschinenwerk. I won't repeat any more history here; for more information see this post by Robert Messenger.

Elite: 1949-1953

The first portable produced by VEB Optima Büromaschinenwerk was an Olympia Elite, changed only in name. An excellent comparison between an older Olympia and later Optima Elite on Ken Coghlan's Swinging Typebars. It was only produced as a full-featured machine with a keyset tabulator.

Based on seeing new serial numbers, I am going to approach this slightly differently from how I did when I originally wrote this. I believe that the first machine manufactured at the Wilhelmshaven Olympia factory was a "proto-SM1" branded as Orbis. Therefore, all glossy Olympias built after serial number 600956, which was previously thought to be the beginning of the Optima brand, are actually Optimas built in the Erfurt factory. Machines built up to about 700000 can be found as Optima, Erfurt, or without a brand at all.

The two "Olympia"s below fit into this description. One is an Elite, another is one of the very last Progress models ever made.

649033 - 1950

689057 - 1951

The typewriter below was built right before the Optima labels was introduced, it's just an Elite with the Olympia decal removed and a "Made in Germany" decal added.

695845 - 1951

711092 - 1951

This Optima Elite is the earliest one I have seen to bear the Optima name. Notice the front decal is different from the ones usually found.

725023 - 1952

732262 - 1952

742103 - 1953

Finally, the name variation of "Ranger" exists, and was sold in the Netherlands.

Ranger - 728950 - 1952

Elite: 1953-1955

The first major change to this design took place in 1953 when the body was completely redesigned and changes were made to the carriage. It was produced in a number of different colors and finishes.

13702 - 1953

27576 - 1953

Early on in the production the decals changed to a nice embossed metal logo and a new paper rest was added. The same older style case from the 1940s is still being used.


50446 - 1954

878457 - 1955

Elite 3: 1955-1961

In 1955 the body was redesigned again, creating one of the great classic portable designs of the 1950s offered in a number of attractive colors. From the appearance, it doesn't seem like much has changed mechanically, but my experience with a very late (1961) model shows a definite improvement over the pre-war Olympia Elite. This model was aptly designated Elite 3, but can occasionally be seen labelled "Elite", "Progress 3", or "Super".

926184 - 1956

929695 - 1956

Around 1957, a few more minor changes were made to the body (making the spacebar a little less wide and changing the paper arm design again) and this continued unchanged until the end of Optima Elite production in 1961. The blue typewriter below is a transition between 1956 and 1958, as it has the newer style spacebar but the older style paper rest.

1054087 - 1958

1037732 - 1958

1083152 - 1959

1070182 - 1959

1079870 - 1959

1118787 - 1960

1164692 - 1961

Plana: 1950-1957

While in the west, Olympia didn't produce any Planas, this model was continued by Optima. The only change other than the decal is that the segment is not made out of bakelite any more.

229572 - 1953

243533 - 1956

This Olympia Plana was built before the 1951 settlement and therefore isn't quite an Optima, but it was definitely built in the Soviet zone. The one below may or may not have been produced after the war.

P1: 1957-1959

The Plana was updated as the P1 which remained mechanically the same but without a tabulator (and its accompanying bizarre setting system) and a completely new shell. It was offered in tan, silver, green, and probably other colors as well.

246579 - 1957

246772 - 1957

259535 - 1959


While there have been quite a few East German typewriters rebranded as Optimas for export, the actual Optima was only rebranded once to my knowledge, as a Referent (Rheinmetalls were also branded Referent).

Although not necessarily a rebranding, the Elite 3, first version, was available with crinkle paint in only one circumstance—when it was sold through Scheidegger, the typing school. This one has a Swiss keyboard.

The Optima name was used on Erikas primarily, but a few Consuls were branded as Optima, interestingly, including a very late one that might actually date to after the fall of Communism in Czechoslovakia.




Optima SM 30

Optima SM 35

As for this, it's said to have been produced in Moscow, but I'm not sure:

Optima SM 10

Serial numbers
from Die Entwicklung der ehemaligen DDR-Schreibmaschinen-Produktion

837657 1949 M8 production begins under Optima name in 1949 (formerly Olympia M8)
884692 1950
949204 1951
966688 1952 Last serial number: 966867
1046 1950 M10 production begins 1950
3693 1951
31216 1952
58757 1953
84853 1954
93237 1955
120341 1956
139350 1957
149724 1958
156564 1959 Last serial number: 163113
Plana, P1
203759 1950 Plana production begins under Optima name in 1950 (formerly Olympia Plana)
209105 1951
216314 1952
220335 1953
230338 1954
238020 1955
241703 1956
244063 1957 P1 production begins at number 244973 25
249473 1958
257473 1959 Last serial number: 263872
Continental, Opticon
3001 1956 Continental production begins 1956
4273 1957
9498 1958 Opticon production begins at number 9498
19391 1959 Last serial number: 26750
Elite, Elite 3, Progress 3, Super
600956 1949 Elite production begins under Optima name in 1949 (formerly Olympia Elite)
635416 1950
681289 1951
714800 1952
741587 1953 Last serial number: 754183
1001 1953 New Elite serial numbers introduced mid-1953
31350 1954
68631 1955 Last serial number: 75893
875894 1955 Again, new Elite serial numbers introduced mid-1955
921281 1956
961590 1957
1005697 1958
1053258 1959
1105862 1960
1153068 1961 Last serial number: 1202470

In 1961, production of the Optima portable ended as all DDR portable typewriter production was taken over by Erika. Optima continued to produce standard typewriters until the fall of the DDR under the authority of Zentronik and eventually Robotron. By the end of production in August 1991, Robotron was one of the last manufacturers of high-quality manual typewriters.

Also of interest

Last updated 25 November 2015


  1. Excellently done as always (:

    1. I do try my best to be a useful member of society. XD

    2. A productive agent for the Insurrection! :D

  2. Great work. I updated my anonymous Optima Elite on the TWDB. 695845 = 1951.

    1. Yours is a fantastic find! That must have been produced within a couple months after the settlement on the Olympia name.

  3. Pretty extensive. Great work!

  4. Hi there,
    just wanted to report a strange thing about Olympia/Optima Elite.
    I'm the owner of a Cyrillic Olympia ELITE with Serial Number 636XXX (I suppose a rare one).
    This is really strange because according to SN data it should be an Optima but in fact has the Olympia logo...

    Curious if you can tell me something about it!
    How it should be dated? Is this really rare, isn't it?

    1. I don't know exactly when they switched over from Olympia to Optima for certain, but the note in the serial numbers is not for sure. I now know that they made them under the Olympia name for a while, and yours is one of those. Production before switching to Optima lasted longer than I expected.

      I will assume therefore that at least 36000 Optimas were made before they started calling them Optimas. Could you send a photo to schreibstang at gmail dot com?

  5. I have acquired an Optima Elite serial no. 1087090 so according to the info here, it's from 1959. Excellent condition and complete with case, also in green.
    With no other information, do I assume this is an Elite 3? It has a Swiss keyboard.

    1. Nice! Yes, it'd be an Elite 3 unless if it says otherwise on the back.

  6. Wrt re-branding, I can now add that Optima also rebranded as Ranger. Have just got a '52 Elite with Ranger as brand, serial 728950. (Thanks for this great write-up, btway :)

  7. Hi Nick -- Writing a letter on my Optima Super today. Got the urge to learn more about it and was happy to find your article. It's a beaut, solid and smooth and pristine. Interestingly, its SN of 1975220 is well beyond what you have found as the last produced of 1202470. Be well - Tony

  8. I have a gorgeous teal Optima Elite 3 (Says USSR Occupied Germany on the back), serial number 1041535, and I always thought it was from the 40s. Now, thanks to your site, I know it's a 1958! Love, love, love this machine.

    I wish I knew what the key to the left of the space bar is supposed to be for. The key to the right of the space bar releases the carriage all the way to the left. But that matching key to the left of the space bar does absolutely nothing. I have tried following the linkage underneath to see where it goes, in case something is unhooked somewhere... but no dice.

    Any ideas?

  9. Hello,
    My Father Danny R. Krull
    Owned the store
    The foil sticker on typewriter!

    City Typewriter
    29456 Gratiot
    Roseville, Mi. 48066

    Thank you for posting this. It’s so incredibly neat for me to find. He was so proud of his store. I grew up spending lots of time at the shop. Where he sold new & used machines and repaired them.
    It was a very difficult time when he had to close. He was a single father raising my brother and myself on his own. I’m heartbroken to say they both have passed. Finding this post really touched my heart. Thank you. -Theresa Krull

  10. Desde Brasil, RJ, reporto uma OLYMPIA ELITE com serial número 700134, teclado português. Atualmente em perfeita condição original. Conforme o excelente artigo já seria uma Optima fabricada em Erfurt… talvez por destinada ao mercado externo foi montada e adesivada ainda como Olympia, e tem o decalque Made in Germany, e aguardou a viagem um tempo suficiente para que suas “vizinhas” da linha de produção tenham recebido outra denominação. Compartilho a curiosidade.